tv Responses to the Lincoln Assassination CSPAN April 19, 2015 10:45am-11:11am EDT
james has a line in the play, and a lot of lines from his play come to me, he says god, give us our beloved ones. i think about that. when i look at the box, i think about them making him an idol. of course, he is a great idol. it is just that we have participated in that we federation. susan swain: you have worked with the theater for a while now, but does it ever leave you being you that box? james still: no. i didn't know if i would have that same kind of haunted feeling sitting there, but in this case, the play -- the widow lincoln is actually incorporated into the play. there is a double experience going on. you are watching mary lincoln remembering that night, and the audience remembering that with
her in ford theater. that is a very unique experience for me as a writer. i think sometimes at fort theater, they, if i can speak for them, they have to almost deny the box in a way. you are doing a play that has nothing to do with lincoln, and yet you can't cover it up. you can't not lighted. it is there. it is always present. so what is wonderful and difficult in a certain way is that it is meant to be present. it is meant to be part of the play. so i think sitting in the audience realizing there was a night on april 14 in 1865 that a president and his wife sat in that box and were watching a play just like we are going to be watching a play. and this terrible thing happened. >> of the next on "american
history tv," as part of our programming marking the 150th anniversary of the assassination of resident lincoln, we visit ford's theatre to learn about an online project to collect documents and artifacts detailing ordinary americans' responses to the death of the president. sarah jencks: welcome to ford's theater. david mckenzie: i am david mckenzie, the digital projects manager. sarah jencks: and we are so excited to share a project with you today. we have been working for the last year and half to create "remembering lincoln." it allows us to take resources primary source resources from around the country and around the world and digitize them and put them online so that anyone, anywhere in the world can learn more about how regular people responded to abraham lincoln's
assassination. david mckenzie: when lincoln was assassinated, of course this was five days after general robert he lead surrendered to general ulysses s grant down at appomattox courthouse, and this is, going back and the moment, the first presidential assassination in the country's history. it is something that americans had never experienced before. they had also experienced four years of death and warfare. it was a terrible time. and it is really getting back into the moment is what we are trying to do here. sarah jencks: there is real value, we feel, and we have learned this from watching our visitors, and finding out what they can the people experience with the lincoln assassination. so often, we really only care about the assassination through the stories of the people who were major players that night.
and even sometimes then we will then about the stories of the people who were secondary players on the night of the assassination, like the doctor, but we don't get to hear what regular people experienced. and that was what the project was meant to solve. we have been so lucky because we found partners in historical societies and libraries and its two should across the country that are allowing us -- that have allowed us to digitize their items from their collections. and put them together so that you can explore them and learn about these responses on your own. david mckenzie: now we will tie you about some of our favorite things that we have in this collection. now, lincoln was assassinated at 10:15 p.m. no one knows the exact moment
across the street from us, at ford's theater. word got out pretty quickly of the assassination attempt. and then word got out and lincoln died the next morning at 7:22 a.m. and that day, a lot of the country actually found a pretty quickly because they were telegraph lines in many places. a lot of the major u.s. cities were on telegraph lines. not everywhere was, though. somewhere that was was st. paul, minnesota. where a journalist found out that morning. and he wrote a letter to his wife, where he simply said, weep, weep , weep, for the daughters of my people. most of the items we have are just the letters, but the minnesota historical society included the envelope on which the letter -- in which the letter was put because his son
actually put a note on the outside of the envelope. it says, fathers note to mother when lincoln was assassinated. he told me that he was with father when the news came and that he staggered across the room sank down, and burst into tears. now, a lot of americans reacted -- reacted very strongly in this way. a strong sense of mourning. not everybody did so. and a lot of cities, the mayors issued proclamations as soon as they found out about lincoln's assassination. the mayor of cleveland, for example, issued a proclamation instructing citizens to come together in the city's main square at 3:00 that afternoon. and sarah can tell you a bit more about what happened. sarah jencks: well, this photograph right here is from
the western reserve historical society, which is the historical society in cleveland, ohio. and the have this photograph and actually have this stone in their collection. the reason is because of the special story that is behind it. there was a gentleman who had been an architect of the courthouse who was not as sad as others about lincoln's assassination. in fact, when everyone gathered together, this gentleman said, this is not a moment for crime. this is not a moment to be said. and the rest of the crowd turned on him. he ended up spending the night in jail for his own safety, and left town the next day. and because his name had been in the cornerstone of the courthouse, the regular people of the town who were mourning lincoln chiseled it out. and you can see right here in the image that, in fact, one of
the names of the architects is chiseled out of the cornerstone. you won't know who would it -- who it was because of his response to the lincoln assassination. david mckenzie: another ordinary person who are strongly affected by the assassination was a guy named willie clark. willie clark actually lived in the peterson house. he was a border, a soldier -- bo arder, a soldier, and he had a room in the back on the first floor. on that morning, willie clark like many in washington, was out and partying. he was celebrating the near end of the civil war. so that night around 10:15 across the street, the president is shot. and soldiers carry the wounded president out, looked around with to bring him good a
gentleman in the peterson house said bring him in here because there was an empty bedroom in the back. that was willie clark's bedroom. so they bring lincoln in there. lincoln dies there the next morning. willie clark comes back after lincoln's body is cleared out. and essentially, you can only imagine the scene there. you are told, by the way, the president of the united states died in your bed last night. what would you do? sarah, do you think you would -- would you ever go into that room again? sarah jencks: you know, i can't imagine what willie clark must have been feeling. he was a young guy. and he was -- this was his room. this was the room he knew. and it was his bed. and he paid for the room. his response was, he slept in the bed. and honestly, while we might
have chosen not to do that, i think in other ways, it is understandable that that is what he did. it was his home. so, willie clark is not a famous name but he guided the interpretation of that space his bedroom four the immediate aftermath of the assassination because people came to visit him and they bothered him. the neck on his door. it was his room. david mckenzie: in fact, one of the items that we have here in the lincoln collection is willie clark's letter to his sister back in massachusetts from a few days later. he wrote this actually on wednesday, april 19, 1865. this is the day of the big funeral in washington. he talks about his wife -- life
in the previous few days he talks about all of the souvenir hunters that are coming into his house, day and night, to try and get some kind of relic. now, willie wasn't completely blameless in this because he also said a few relics to his sister. he talks about sending even a piece of mary lincoln's cloak. i believe it is her cloak. also he -- he talks about some of what else has been going on. people at that time -- you weren't really able to see, get images into the newspapers. so he had been working with an engraver, portions that we have highlighted here. i was engaged nearly all of sunday with one special artist, aiding him making a correct
drawing of the last moments of mr. lincoln, as i knew the position of everyone present, he succeeded in executing a fine sketch, which will appear in their paper the last of this week. he intends from the same director have some fine, large steel gratings executed. so sunday, sunday is the day after president lincoln's death. it is easter sunday. and already, there is an artist in the peterson house. to sketch the scene. in fact, there is another item that we are including in remembering lincoln. this is the sketch that appeared in an illustrated newspaper on april 29, 18 65, 2 weeks after lincoln's death. sarah jencks: and this is from the collection at the d.c. public library although many many copies of it exist. david mckenzie: this sketch is
from one of the originals. you will see a lot of different images of the death of lincoln. some of them came out right after the assassination, some of them came out years later. the room was nicknamed the rubber room. anyone who has been in there, it is a tiny, tiny space. but in a lot of these images, rose, as if the -- it grows, as if the walls are made of rubber. this one even show some of the boarders from the peterson house, standing around the deceased president. sarah jencks: and you can see not only the boarders, but also members of the cabinet at the same time. the boarders are all the way on the left. the little boy who stands at the foot of the bed is a member of the household. david mckenzie: in fact, one of the peterson children. sarah jencks: but if you look at the head of the bed, you will see both wells and stanton, two
of the members of the cabinet. so this shows a wide range of the people who would have been in the peterson house that night. and there is something that is really tender about the portrait of the president. he looks very small, in many ways, and the cover on top of him is very detailed. you get a sense of what this room might have been like, although certainly, the number of people in it is pretty hard to imagine when you are standing in the room now. david mckenzie: we were mentioning that the new spread relatively quickly across the country, depending on who is on the telegraph line. now, in the south, in the defeated confederacy, that wasn't quite defeated yet, there were a lot of news going around in different ways.
so this right here is another one of my favorite items. this headline is absolutely amazing. it says, from the "alabama david: it is a reprint from the demopoulos herald. four days after lincoln was assassinated, the news is getting into alabama. lincoln and stewart assassinated. not all people in the united states were morning at that time . some in the unions were rejoicing. there were a lot of factors that went into people's responses. this shows that this information
isn't simply an artifact. many of you around on september 11, 2001 may remember the rumors that were flying. i went to class that morning after hearing radio on the shuttle to campus that in addition to the twin towers and the pentagon that the national mall was on fire and the state department had been bombed. a lot of news was spreading at that time. this story has a similar piece to that as well. not only does it say that both lincoln and stewart were assassinated but that robert ely had defeated ulysses s. grant, when in fact to 12 days before this was printed, 10 days before the original version, lee had surrendered to grant.
this article is also transparent. a guy passing through town passed on the rumor that lee had defeated grant. sarah: you can see in the first paragraph of the article that it says we have been favored with the following dispatch, which we hasten to lay before our readers with the hope that it may prove true. there was so little access to information at the time because of the earning of the rail lines and telegraph lines that this was enough to publish, with the understanding that it might not prove true. david: speaking of news getting out a lot of the country on the telegraph lines got the news immediately.
the new york herald and its seven special editions that day. however, other places took up -- a little bit longer to find up insult makes it was on the telegraph line. on april 15, 18 65, the salt lake newspapers printed a special edition and loaded it onto a stage coach boise, idaho. this newspaper right here is from 10 days later when that news actually arrived and idaho territory. immediately the newspaper went into an extra addition saying president lincoln and secretary stewart assassinated. the overland mail brings a large number of extras from this -- from the daily salt lake telegraph.
can you imagine being in that town and you don't find out for 10 days? in the aftermath of the assassination, what if the next couple of major things were going on. one, the search for the killers john wilkes booth. he evaded capture for 12 days. also, burying the president. sarah: the funeral train that took the president from washington mdc -- washington -- washington dc to his final resting place in illinois was captured in many photographs in moving ways. one of the images we have on our site is from columbus, ohio. this is a true victorian funeral. take a look at this image from columbus and you will see many
horses pulling a cat assault with the coffin in the middle, black draft -- draped fabric, tassels. this was going through town so it could be set in its own special place waiting for a crowd of people in columbus to come and pay their respects to the president. david: in many cities there were these day long funeral processions. when lincoln's body was put in the main square and people lined up for miles, even along the train tracks as the train passed through, people lined up all the way to springfield. this president was buried on may 4 and oak ridge cemetery in springville, illinois. sarah: but many people say that
these funerals were not just for president lincoln. they also represented the morning of the boys and men who never got their own funerals because they lay dying or buried in the battlefields around the country. so president lincoln's funeral was for more than just president lincoln in many ways. david: now right after lincoln's death he became for many a marker. -- march or. lincoln was as hesitated on good friday, so are a lot of ministers made comparisons between lincoln and christ. also, a lot of rabbis brought up the fact that this is occurring during passover. we are looking at the american
jewish archives for translated sermons that were previously available just in german and putting that on the remembering lincoln site. a series of cards -- images -- came out showing lincoln a sending into heaven. sarah: this is the other side of the coin. we have documentation of the funerals that really happened, then we have the beginning of the iconography of abraham lincoln. this is very early on. until that time, as we know, by the fact that george washington his lithograph sits in front of the presidential bucks and ford's the leader. until this time, washington's image was synonymous with the presidency, but at this point something very interesting begins to happen. lincoln is being raised in the image we have in front of us to the same status as washington.
the apotheosis of george washington is a mural and the dome of the u.s. capitol which was being finished during the civil war. david: that image shows a washington coming into heaven. so this image is the sequel to it, showing washington receiving lincoln into heaven. sarah: you can even see the angels up to the left welcoming the two men. david: i hope with the site is that it really helps people to connect with how ordinary people like them, like us, experience an event of this magnitude. sarah: the beauty of the internet is that we don't have to do it only in an exhibit here at ford's theater. we can make it available to everyone, and in fact making it
available to everyone, we can have a much bigger collection and exhibit than we would ever be able to have if we just put product together for six weeks or a year here at ford's theater. david: we can make this permanent and show a lot of different places. so on the remembering lincoln website we have a map of the different responses. you will see on this map that there are a lot of blank spaces in the country. we have been working with a lot of different organizations and individuals who have items. however, there are a lot of blanks. we are relying on a lot of different people. you know about something in your community? do you have your great-great-grandmother's diary that shows how he or she responded? sarah: maybe you work or volunteer in this -- volunteer
in a historical society and know of a diary or interested in doing the research to find diaries or newspapers or items from that time. you can find out what the responses like in your community. we want to know. we are eager for this map to be covered with representations. david: in fact on our website we have a webpage for submitting an item. it's a very simple form. fill it out, tell us about it, and then i will get in touch with you. i check that e-mail bucks frequently. i will get in touch and ask you some more information, and then we will ask you or the historical society or whoever has this item about getting into remembering lincoln. we can fill in this map and re